“Focus 2040” was a competition of post secondary students. Competitors were asked; What would the workplace look like in the year 2040? The ideas proposed were nothing short of brilliant. One competitor predicted a global repository of resumes. Does this sound like something Linkedin has accomplished? Or is there a more robust platform yet to come. A repository of resumes that would translate into any one of the estimated 6,500 languages spoken in the world. Another suggested that workers of the future would work on several different projects at any given time and would not be bound to one employer. It sounds like the worker of the future is being driven by an entrepreneurial mindset which in turn is driven by the millennial mantra; If you can’t teach me something new or challenge me with opportunities, I’ll leave and find it elsewhere. This philosophy gives way to a “short term” millennial employee. No longer can employers depend on team members joining when they graduate and staying until they receive their gold watch and retirement celebration.
This opens up a discussion of preparing our workplace for the workforce of the future. Millennials want flexibility, opportunity, feedback and a company with a purpose. Pouring these asks into a workplace cauldron, will conjure up agita within the most seasoned business owner. Obtaining nirvana may not have staff maffick throughout the office, but it will give you an edge when recruiting and retaining talent.
Let’s start with flexibility.
Creating flexibility for your team does not happen organically. It takes planning, persistence and perseverance. Try this little quiz and see if you’re ready. Answer True or False to the following. Be candid. No one is grading the results.
- My team has access to the most current technology available. (All systems are less than two years old)
Productivity grinds to a halt when staff are saddled with outdated, inferior and redundant systems. You must equip your team with the best (not the most expensive) technology you can find and maintain. This may include hiring an external IT support company to provide on demand support.
- My team can communicate as if they were in the office.
This may mean something as simple as forwarding an office phone to a cell phone. However, to be most efficient and truly give your customers the service level they deserve and provide your team with the best options available, you may consider moving to a VOIP or similar hard wired system. A virtual communication system that does not depend on your team’s location and can provide phone, text, file sharing and live meeting conferencing with video, will boost your teams efficiency to new heights.
- My team can access critical information to perform their tasks when working remotely.
This requires information to be stored in the “cloud” or available by remote access (VPN) on your corporate servers. The cost of cloud storage has drastically reduced over the past few years. If you can bring yourself to move to a paperless organization and get past not being able to visit your server room several times a day and pat a black box on the head to bring you comfort, you may be ready.
- My team knows everyone’s status on projects.
Teams of two or more need this information in order to function remotely. In many organizations, every task turns into a project. Every function has a process and repetitive tasks are modified on the fly over time. Adopting a team based project manager will help your team stay up to date with latest developments on projects and provide comfort for anyone needing to take over a task in the event of that “hit by the bus” moment. You can use excel, but there are many on the market now that range from free to thousands of dollars per year. A few to check out are, Monday.com, Slack and Teams by Microsoft.
- My team has clear goals and objectives
This may be the most difficult task for you to assess and create as a leader. As the saying goes; If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. Think of every revenue line item. Think of every cost line item. Break those down to responsibility and accountability. What are your corporate goals and how does your team contribute to reaching those targets. This may take weeks, months or years. It will require building reporting systems driven by your technology or by manual input. You and your management team will need to be persistent and consistent when communicating and administering this area. Monitor, evaluate, modify, then rinse and repeat. This is an ongoing responsibility that the leader must champion.
- I believe my team is productive whether I’m in the office or not.
You and your management team need to transcend to the mindset of trusting your team and believing they are productive, even when you can’t physically see them. Once you attain this step, which can be monumental for those boomers out there, you’re on your way to building a workplace of the future. One that will attract great talent that knows you respect their skills and trust them to perform. All this while providing your team with the flexibility to seize tranquility and work-life balance. Well, at least that’s the dream.
These are a few of the many preparation steps. The execution is just as challenging and equally important. If you truly want to achieve great results, you need to hire for attitude, train for aptitude ,create an environment for success and provide the best tools possible. Also remember, the people that got you here, although amazing individuals, may not be the people to get you there. Achieving your workplace nirvana or have your team maffick through the office (when they are physically there), may not happen immediately, but you’ll be infinitely closer than you are right now.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of CONNECT Magazine.